The photograph of New York City firefighters raising an American flag atop a pile of World Trade Center rubble on September 11 is one of the most enduring images of the terrorist attacks on the United States. Now a statue honoring firefighters - based on the photograph - is meeting with controversy.
The photograph of the firemen hoisting the American flag calls to mind the picture of six American soldiers raising a flag atop a hill on Iwo Jima in 1945. And, as was the case with the World War II image, the more recent photo has inspired a commemorative statue.
But a petition is being circulated within the New York City Fire Department to quash the project. The petitioners are upset because the statue depicts a white man, a black man, and a Latino man raising the flag, whereas the actual event captured in the photograph involved three white firefighters only.
Carlos Casoris lost his firefighter son Thomas on September 11. He says, They are rewriting history in order to achieve political correctness. Firefighter Santo Galando is in agreement. "When they did that, it was a spontaneous thing," he said. "It wasn't planned or anything like that, so it should stay like that. That's what's going to make it history. That it was just done spontaneously."
But the Vulcan Society, a group that represents the city's black firefighters, believes that the artistic expression of diversity should supersede factual correctness. Many white firefighters, like Tim McCormack, agree. "The artist is trying to express the entire fire department in a way that gives credit to everybody," he said. "I guess I'm okay with that."
343 firefighters died on September 11. Twelve of them were black. How many were Latino is not known. But all firefighters are united by grief, and most, like Rob Gallo, could simply do without more of it. Mr. Gallo says the race depicted by the statues should not matter. "I don't think it ever should have been an issue," said Rob Gallo. "But now it is. Now, something has to be done about it."
A private company commissioned the statue. The Fire Department has yet to issue an official statement, but for now, the future of the project seems anything but etched in stone.